What Can Millennials Learn From Old Schoolers About Digital Selling?

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter


There was a great statistic that Justin Shriber, the Head of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, presented at our digital growth conference in 2016. This data contradicted the idea of starting your social selling pilot with “digital natives” instead of “digital immigrants.”

To clarify, digital natives are millennials, who are born after 1980. The iPad and social media were part of their DNA and their day-to-day lives from their teenage into their university years, and into their adult working life.

Old schoolers, also known as “digital immigrants,” didn’t have social media as part of their growth and development years, but were likely introduced to it in their 20s and 30s. I fall into this group, as I was born in 1978.

Justin discussed a LinkedIn study that evaluated the LinkedIn SSI scores of the performance of people under the age of 35 versus those that were over 35. And you may be surprised to hear that those between the ages of 35 and 45 outperformed sales pros under 35 years of age by 5% per unit on the SSI scores! They scored on average 5 more points, and those over 45 scored 6 points higher than those under 35.

There’s this misconception that digital natives will most likely have higher LinkedIn SSI scores and be better social sellers because digital communication comes second-nature to them. But the data doesn’t show that. The question of why, I’ve addressed in a previous post. Now I’m more interested in the what — what can millennials learn from old-schoolers about social and digital selling?

Old-Schoolers Can Be Resources for Introductions

This is my subjective feeling backed by the experience of training over 70,000 sales professionals in virtually every industry. I’m 38 years old. I’m a gen-xer. You look at my network, my friends, my university colleagues and the people who I’ve worked with in the past. These people are now the vice presidents and CEOs of companies. The reality for most millennials is that’s just not the case; most of you have just finished school.

This is the single biggest difference that I see in a newly developing social seller. If you have a digital native or millennial on one-side and a digital immigrant or a gen-x or a baby boomer on the other, the latter holds a greater sphere of influence. And unfortunately, so many baby boomers haven’t really harnessed that power.

They haven’t really attempted to grow their LinkedIn network, discover new people in their market and groom these relationships. These untapped networks hold huge potential.

If gen-xers really did this, if they sought out all university roommates on LinkedIn and the parents at their kid’s school or on their kid’s hockey team, the reality is, those like-minded forty-year-olds are in power positions. They’re decision makers, champions, influencers of companies. So what millennials can learn from old-schoolers is that the old-schoolers can be a resource for introductions to a very powerful network.

Quality Trumps Quantity

The second things millennials could learn from gen-x’s and baby boomers is building quality relationships. Again, this doesn’t apply to all millennials and is completely subjective: just based on my experience.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have mobile devices, we didn’t have relationships in a digital economy. I remember in university, when we would want to go to the bar, we would leave it on our voicemail on our home telephone where we were going that night. I lived in a house with 8 guys. We’d call our buddies and say, we’re going to this bar downtown. And guess what; if people showed, they showed, if they didn’t, they didn’t. There was no way to track people down. There were no smartphones, there was no social.

So, our relationships were handshakes, our relationships were one-to-one. Our relationships were very intimate. Because you only were hanging out and been with a small group of people at any given time.

And so what the millennial could realize is that, the spray and pray approach of just sharing content and trying to talk to everybody at the same, that’s just going wide, but not deep.

I think what the millennial could learn from the old-schooler is of building true authentic relationships, deep relationships with a single person. And that single person’s relationship will be sticky and will help you a lot more than having a lot of relationships that aren’t strong and meaningful. 


Follow Us

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get our latest blogs direct to your inbox


Subscribe to receive more sales insights, analysis, and perspectives from Sales For Life.